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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Colorado
The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Arapahoe County, Colorado are fairly perplexing, and can be confusing to laypersons. This should provide a basic overview.
Local governments will usually divide the city or town into sections, called "zones," each of which is designated for a specific use, such as residential homes, commercial businesses, agriculture, manufacturing, etc. This process is known as "zoning."
There are a lot of rationales and purposes for zoning laws. In general, they're based in common sense: chemical plants shouldn't be built next to daycare centers, pig farms should not be built in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and other simple principles similar to that. Zoning laws, by keeping conflicting land uses separate, make life easier for all parties, ensuring that property values will be preserved, and that necessary industries can be conducted where they will not bother anyone.
Zoning laws generally acknowledge the necessities of things like factories, sewage treatment plants, and stockyards, but recognize that such activities shouldn't be done in residential areas.
What if My Property Violates Arapahoe County, Colorado's Zoning Laws?
Zoning laws are often quite extensive and meticulous, and it's very possible that your property in Arapahoe County, Colorado contains some minor zoning violation that you don't know about. If this happens to you, you have significant legal protections.
First of all, and most simply, the owner could just fix the violation. If the violation isn't very significant, and fixing it wouldn't cost very much, this is likely the best and simplest option.
What if, however, you've invested a significant amount of time and money into making an improvement on your property, only to find that it breaks your local zoning laws in some minor way? In this case, you can apply for a variance. This is essentially an exception to the zoning rules. If declining to enforce these rules would not harm anyone, and would not do much to advance the purpose of Arapahoe County, Colorado's zoning laws, a variance will usually be granted.
You are also protected if your land is currently in complete compliance with local zoning regulations, but the area where your land sits is re-zoned, and your property is suddenly not in compliance with the new zoning regulations. Generally, these new regulations cannot be utilized to force you to change existing conditions on your property. No laws can be applied retroactively, under the U.S. Constitution. Of course, if you make any improvements on your land after the law changes, you'll have to comply with the new law.
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How Can a Arapahoe County, Colorado Attorney Help?
If you suddenly become involved in a zoning dispute with your local government, it's essential to seek competent legal representation. The counsel of an experienced Arapahoe County, Colorado real estate attorney can make it much easier for you to act within the law to use your own property as you wish, or at least be as free as possible to make improvements to your land.